The Oscar Project
In my experience, when people say that a movie is great, to the point where almost no one you talk to has anything bad to say about it, things can go one of two ways. I had the first thing happen many years ago when I finally watched Napoleon Dynamite after friends raving about it for months. I watched it and was thoroughly unimpressed, something I wrote about after returning to the film when I did a 30-day film challenge in late 2020.
The second thing that can happen is the film can completely live up to the expectations, or sometimes even exceed all the glowing things people said about it before you saw it. Parasite is one of those films.
It feels like a little more than just three years since Parasite swept the awards season and capped it off with four Oscar wins including Bong Joon-ho for Best Director and the Best Picture award. It’s also hard to believe that just about a month after the Oscars where Parasite led the pack, the world shut down and things have never been the same since.
Ki-woo meets with a friend and agrees to take his place as an English tutor for the daughter of wealthy family. Once he gets his foot in the door with the Park family, he recommends his sister (re-named “Jessica” to avoid detection as his sister) as an art tutor for the Park’s young son. “Jessica” then recommends Ki-taek as a new driver for Mr. Park, who in turn recommends Chung-sook as a new housekeeper when the Park’s long-time housekeeper is let go. The Kims slowly insinuate themselves into the lives of the entire Park family, latching on to the wealthy in order to improve their own station in life. Once they have forced the existing driver and housekeeper out of the picture, the Kim’s begin to settle into their new way of life, but before they can get too comfortable, things take a drastic turn.
The first half of this film was a slow burn the way it set the scene. While initially feeling bad for the Kim’s in their destitution, I soon turned to feeling for the Park family, especially because of how easily they are duped into trusting the Kim family. The two families are mirrors of one another, both having four members, a mother, father, son, and daughter, and part of the genius of the film is how they could almost be considered the same family that diverged at some point in history.
Where the film really shines is in the second half, once the Kims are fully in place working for the Parks. Mr. Kim ingratiates himself with Mr. Park, gaining his trust and helping with whatever needs doing when it comes to driving him and Mrs. Park around. But we find out in the second half that while Mr. Park appreciates the service provided by Mr. Kim (and the rest of the Kim family) he doesn’t truly respect them, even complaining about the smell that Mr. Kim has in the car as they drive around town. We also learn that the Kims are not the first ones to latch on to the wealthy family in the house. This is where things start to unravel for the Kims and ultimately leads to a deadly conclusion.
If you were to ask me what this film reminds me of, my initial thought would be something along the lines of Hitchcock. Rear Window jumps to mind in the way the first half of that film is a lot of set up where not much really happens, but once the action starts, it doesn’t stop. Just like Hitchcock, there are moments throughout the second half of Parasite where things are quiet and you know something’s coming around the corner, but the quiet lasts just long enough to allow you to let down your guard, before the director smacks you in the face with a new twist.
Several times in the second half of the film I was certain I knew where it was heading, but every time I was wrong. It’s rare in movies today that things can catch seasoned viewers completely off guard, and this film is the exception that proves that rule. Director Bong delivers a trail of breadcrumbs that oftentimes seem to lead to safety, but only serve to take the film in a new direction completely different from where you expect it to go.
Plenty has been written about this film and the statements on class and social inequality, specifically in Korea but also in the world at large. At the end of the film, Ki-woo narrates over the last few scenes that he has a plan in place to bring the Kim family out of poverty, but the very last image shows him still residing in the same basement apartment where he started. Despite the proximity to the wealthy Park family, his position in life hasn’t changed, and the Kim family as a whole is in a much worse situation. It can even be argued that by associating with the Kims, the Park family has collapsed and begun a fall from grace…the host succumbing to the infection of the parasite that has invaded.
This film is one that I absolutely plan to revisit at least once in the next few months. I need a little time to sit with it in my consciousness, but I know there are things I missed on my first viewing. Just like watching Rian Johnson’s Knives Out a second time last fall, there will surely be little details that I pick up on now that I know the outcome of the story.
Bravo Bong Joon-ho! This is truly a masterpiece.
Next up in our series this week is the Best International Feature category. Previously known as Best Foreign Language Film, this category got a new name just last year in 2020 with Best Picture winner Parasite winning here as well.
This year, one of the international feature nominees is again nominated for Best Director (as was Bong Joon-ho last year) with Another Round's Thomas Vinterberg being recognized in that category.
As of this writing, I have not had a chance to watch any of these films, though they will be on my list as we approach the Academy Awards ceremony. As I am able to watch them, reviews will be posted on the site.
2021 Short Film Nominees | 2021 Best Documentary Feature Nominees
It's time for the lists of films submitted for various categories to begin coming out from the Academy and today we start with the list of films submitted for Best International Feature Film.
Folks familiar with the category names may recognize that this is a new category. Well, not really new, but it's under a new name. The Academy changed the name of the Best Foreign Language Film to reflect their position that the word "foreign" was outdated.
Updated 10/7/19 with the full list of films. The full article is also available on the Academy Website.
I'm just a film buff who wants to watch great movies. Where else to find the best, than the list of those nominated by the Academy each year?